Mob Violence Against Women in Algeria: A Historical Case Analysis
In Algeria, Domestic Non-Government Organizations (NGO’s) have compiled a number of reports on reported acts of violence against women (Mayar, 1995). These reports have shown an increase in the physical violence against women according to the Algiers-based Center of Information and Documentation on the Rights of Women and Children (AIDRWC) (Lezzar 2009). Compiled data finding, in 2009, showed that the Algerian police had registered complaints of violence against women totaling over 9,517 (U.S. Department of State, 2011). It has also been noticed that there is a lack of funding from the government for rape crises centers, led by women’s groups, as well as other centers focusing on aiding women who have been victims of violence (Zuhur, 2003).
The need for women’s centers is in high demand and has those that do exist often have difficulties in meeting the needs of victims (Lazreg, 1988). Algerian women originally had access to two local call centers. However, due to minimal government funding one of them, by the name of Batna, was closed (Kristianasen, 2006). It was reported that within the first eight months of the year, the only call center left standing, ran by SOS Femmes en Detresse, and received more than 2,500 calls by women in need of support (Kristianasen, 2006). Resources, provided by the government, for women’s services, continue to remain limited.
Local women’s NGO’s in Algeria, such as SOS Femmes en Detresse, the Wassila Network, Bent Fatma N’Soumer, have played a large role in speaking out on the issue of violence against women (U.S. Department of State, 2011). Many women’s groups within Algeria have been successful in accomplishing forms of independence (i.e. the workforce), but have experienced a large amount of difficulty in drawing much needed attention to the issue of violence against women as a social problem because of the competing traditional social attitudes held (Holt, 2003). The difficulty with women’s rights has not been the same in all areas of Algeria (Charrad, 2001; Mayar, 1995). Urban areas were more likely to show social support and encouragement of women who sought higher education (Moghadam, 1991). Some areas showed that the number of girls graduating from high school were greater than boys (U.S. Department of State, 2011).
Recent statistics have shown an increased number of women diverting from traditional gender roles within the public sphere (Afary, 1997; Moghadam, 2003). Despite the advancement of women’s roles, in Algeria, women failing to comply with Islamist dictates are continuously targeted by the FIS and are seen as a symbol of opposition (Faksh, 1997; Nagel, 1998). Feminists, therefore, are viewed as representing a critical component in the resistance to the fundamentalist leadership. The literature devoted to the Algerian feminist movement continues to be sparing, as articles covering the current issues begin to disappear (Bouatta, 1997; Mishra, 2007). The attempts made to understand the status of women becomes harder to obtain and only achievable through direct contact with feminists or women participating within the Algeria women’s movement (Bayat, 2003; Lazreg, 1988). Women’s organizations continue to have profound effects on the democratic movement, contributing significantly to Algerian civil society as a whole (Lezzar 2009).
Looking at the history of Algeria as well as the socio-economic and political landscape within the country provides a lens into the cultural construction of gender taking place there. Internal and external factors have contributed to previous and recent mob attacks on women, which must be considered in their broader context. The scope of law, violence, and social gendered positions effecting women are essential elements in the formation of the recent acts of male violence against women in Algeria.
In particular, the Hassi Massudi mob attacks that specifically targeted women were part of a deeper structural issue that is closely related to the historical and cultural development of the social perceptions of women. These violent acts committed against women in Algeria are by no means accepted or tolerated by all men within this area. Acts of violence targeting women are only the actions reflecting the views of a select few Algerian people (Islamic Extremists). From colonial penetration, to political instability, the amplification of traditional order has used violence as a method in maintaining a sense of stability in an otherwise unstable society.
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